[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 3-May-2012
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Contact: Steve Yozwiak
syozwiak@tgen.org
602-343-8704
The Translational Genomics Research Institute

TGen leads new National Institutes of Health study of brain tumors

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Van Andel Research Institute and Thomson Reuters participate in search for new drugs to treat glioblastoma multiforme

PHOENIX, Ariz. May 3, 2012 The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) will lead a multidisciplinary search for new drugs that could help treat the most common and lethal form of brain cancer.

A $4.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will fund the search to find new ways of treating glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common type of primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors are among the top 10 causes of cancer death in the U.S., and more than 80,000 Americans have primary malignant brain tumors.

Collaborating with TGen on this 5-year study are the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham); Van Andel Research Institute (VARI); the Intellectual Property & Science division of Thomson Reuters; and the NIH's National Cancer Institute (NCI).

"The exceptional team assembled for this study will mine vast amounts of data to come up with possible cancer vulnerabilities and the most promising ways to attack GBM, giving new hope to brain-tumor patients," said Dr. Michael Berens, Ph.D., Director of TGen's Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and principal investigator of the project.

GBM grows rapidly and commonly spreads to nearby brain tissue. It usually is treated by surgical removal of as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation and conventional chemotherapy. The prognosis is very poor, and patients survive a median of only 14 months after diagnosis.

The goal of this study is to use newly uncovered knowledge about the genomes of hundreds of glioblastoma specimens to discover new medicines that can precisely target tumors, shrinking or even eliminating them, with minimal harm to other cells and minimal side effects for patients.

In a discovery phase, TGen, VARI and Thomson Reuters will conduct the most extensive scan ever undertaken of available public data about the potential genetic causes of GBM. This search will identify the most promising genes and cellular pathways to target. These targets will be referenced against a database of 54 patient tumor models, looking for small molecules that could lead the way to new cancer drugs.

The resulting pre-clinical drug-treatment models will be tested and validated by Sanford-Burnham, creating the best available data to share with the general scientific community, including pharmaceutical companies.

"We hope to put the scientific and technical competency of chemical biology at Sanford-Burnham to work in this study, helping to generate prototypes of new medicines that could eventually be delivered to patients who desperately need them," said Dr. Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., Sanford-Burnham's President and Director of its NCI-designated Cancer Center.

In addition, the study team will meet monthly with the NCI's Cancer Target Discovery and Development (CTDD) Network, sharing best practices that will help other researchers avoid duplication and pursue the most promising lines of investigation. The CTDD Network goal is to bridge the gap between the enormous volumes of genomic data generated by the comprehensive molecular characterization of various cancer types and the ability to use these data for the development of human cancer therapeutics.

"The computational tools we have developed to enable personalized medicine will comb through extensive data sets, looking to systematically identify novel drug targets and match the best available therapies with patients' individual tumors," said Dr. Craig Webb, Ph.D., Head of VARI's Laboratory of Translational Medicine, which brings to the study expertise in bioinformatics and personalized medicine. "Working closely with the CTDD Network will ensure that our ongoing research remains cutting-edge."

In addition to the team led by TGen, the CTDD Network consists of: Columbia University, Emory University, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, University of California San Francisco, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and the Broad Institute.

The MetaCore and MetaMiner (oncology) offerings from Thomson Reuters provide some of the world's best applications for systems biology in the analysis of cellular pathways, the cascade of chemical events that take place within the lifecycles of normal and cancerous cells.

"Our unique biological systems technology enables complete reconstruction of mammalian cellular functionality, providing precise tumor analysis and accelerating target discovery," said Dr. Yuri Nikolsky, Ph.D., Vice President of Research & Development at Thomson Reuters.

The study, formally titled "Systematic Development of Novel, Druggable Cancer Targets," will build on information from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), an NCI project. TCGA is assembling vast bodies of information about how errors in DNA cause cells to grow uncontrolled, causing cancer. The TCGA is focused on several types of cancer, including GBM.

"The study's combination of bioinformatics and experimental approaches is innovative, and should enable development of novel molecular targets not only in GBM, but also in multiple cancer types," TGen's Dr. Berens said.

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This research is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01CA168397.

About TGen

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

Press Contact:

Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
syozwiak@tgen.org

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. The Institute consistently ranks among the top five organizations worldwide for its scientific impact in the fields of biology and biochemistry (defined by citations per publication) and currently ranks third in the nation in NIH funding among all laboratory-based research institutes. Sanford-Burnham is a highly innovative organization, currently ranking second nationally among all organizations in capital efficiency of generating patents, defined by the number of patents issued per grant dollars awarded, according to government statistics.

Sanford-Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is especially known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a U.S.-based, non-profit public benefit corporation, with operations in San Diego (La Jolla), California and Orlando (Lake Nona), Florida. For more information, please visit our website (www.sanfordburnham.org) or blog (http://beaker.sanfordburnham.org). You can also receive updates by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Press Contact:

Heather Buschman, Ph.D.
Scientific Communications Manager
858-795-5343
hbuschman@sanfordburnham.org

About Van Andel Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) is dedicated to strengthening science education and preparing and motivating individuals to pursue science or science-related professions. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe.

Press Contact:

Tim Hawkins
Communications Manager
616-234-5390
tim.hawkins@vai.org

About Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial and risk, legal, tax and accounting, intellectual property and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs approximately 60,000 people and operates in over 100 countries. For more information, go to www.thomsonreuters.com.

Press Contact:

Laura Gaze
Director, PR & Thought Leadership, Intellectual Property & Science
Thomson Reuters
203-868-3340
laura.gaze@thomsonreuters.com



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